If you´d ever visited Iceland you will most likely have visited the town of Hafnarfjordur without knowing it.
You see, you have to drive through here on your way to Reykjavik from the Keflavik airport and vice-versa. Although that does not give a very nice impression of the place.
Hafnarfjordur is one of those towns pretending to be special town but are in fact just an extension of Reykjavik city as they are jammed up close and no one not looking at a map would know that Hafnarfjordur is a different place from the capital.
That is Icelandic politics at work for you. It is naturally much better use of tax-payer money to run five different towns around Reykjavik than just joining them for a stronger society. And the town of Hafnarfjordur, arguably the most interesting of all the places around Reykjavik, has suffered because of it.
You see, Hafnarfjordur does not know what it is supposed to be. On one hand the place boasts a big concentration of old-school buildings and architecture most of which are very nicely preserved. Extra bonus is the fact that a slew of those are located by a small creek. It is really wonderful to walk around that area on a nice day and you get an instant feel for old Iceland.
On the other hand you will have to know where to look and the old buildings are not easy to find hidden between horrible modern buildings above what is known as the center of town. Problem is, the center is stone-cold dead and efforts to change this in later years have proved fruitless. And a town with no living center is hardly more interesting for visitors than a soiled diaper.
Although the center is void of interest there are a few positive things outside of the center. Best of which is a small little cave garden called Hellisgerdi. This small garden is a few steps away from the center and although small and perhaps not on par with great gardens closer to the equator it is positively fantastic by Icelandic standards. Better yet, not many people know about it. The flora of Iceland may not be fabulous on the whole but this setting; trees and plants grown around old lava rocks is truly worth a walk. Just step lightly since this place is officially the home of elves. Try coming in July while the sun is smiling. Certainly a place whose effects one cannot describe. See map below.
Hafnarfjordur is one of the places here where an aluminum smelter greets you and this does dampen any interest for this place. The nearby area is also heavily polluted. However, next to the aluminum is one of the very best golf courses in the country. This is the home of Keilir golfclub where half of the course is laid out smoothly between lava rocks too. A very demanding course and very much a favorite of avid golfers. This place is open for all but do check for available tee-times way before since this is a popular place.
Belonging to Hafnarfjordur is also a very nice outdoor area around a small lake, Hvaleyrarvatn, where few venture. On the way there you´ll find the HQ of Ishestar horse rental agency. This area is also very beautiful in summertime when everything is in bloom.
The aforementioned old town of Hafnarfjordur is not clearly marked in any way. But a good idea is to park in the town center, where you´ll find a small indoor shopping mall, and then walk five minutes or so up the small hill straight up from the center street. You will see the old buildings right away and then just wander about. The area is not large and half an hour should be sufficient unless you live and die for old Icelandic buildings.
Also very worth visiting is the Heidmork Park area located ten minutes by car from Hafnarfjordur. This park is the closest you´ll get to a wooded area in this part of the country. Highly recommended for trekkers. Also close to Heidmork is a second golf course. Urridavollur course is by local standards a very good course and also open to visitors although private.
Due to the closeness to the capital, about twenty minutes by car, Hafnarfjordur looses out in larger events. There is a horrible Christmas market here with all but five stalls and not an ounce of the charm that makes you fly to such markets in older cities of Europe. More interesting is a yearly Viking festival held in viking-style Fjorukrain bar. But although interesting this is very touristy and has little to do with the viking history of Iceland. This usually takes place in middle of June when the natural beauty of Iceland is what you should be taking in.
Also found here are two swimming pools. One outdoor and one indoor but neither of which are very special. For shopping you are better off in Reykjavik city and in any case apart from the small shopping mall in the center there is little of interest.
Hafnarfjordur is not a good place to stay in either. Buses go to and from Reykjavik capital regularly but since hotel prices on average are no lower here than in the capital itself this is just a waste of time. But there are options should you find this place fascinating. You will find the Viking hotel here right by the Fjorukrain bar. Handy if you are the drinking type. Hotel Hafnarfjordur is another but the location is horrible about twenty minutes away from the center by foot.
Our humble opinion
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